What can we expect from the COP26 Summit? Here’s why it’s important

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World leaders are meeting in Glasgow this weekend (31 October) for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference. Not to overstate the obvious but you’re right for thinking twenty-six feels like a staggering number of meetings to have when you consider how obvious the threat of climate change is. But here we are. We’re actually into the 27th year of talks as last year’s summit was postponed due to COVID-19, but who’s counting.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will join other world leaders for the two-week summit hosted by the UK. The aim of the fortnight is to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement. Which reads a lot like an idea we would’ve hoped to hear 30 years ago…

We aren’t alone in thinking a response to the climate crisis should have ’accelerated’ a long time ago. That’s largely why the COP26 summit is being considered one of the most important international climate summits in years. 

Why is COP26 so important?

It’s crucial because time is ticking. Research shows that if we have any hope of reversing the impacts of climate change, global emissions from greenhouse gases must drop drastically this decade. Ahead of the summit, the world is not on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

It’s hoped that COP26 will see countries bring bigger targets to the table in terms of tackling their fossil fuel emissions. Many of Australia’s key trading partners and strategic allies are among those who’ve already committed to increased targets.

In an effort to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, they’ve committed to:

  • UK 68% below 1990 levels by 2030
  • US 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030
  • EU 55% below 1990 levels by 2030
  • Canada 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030

Ahead of the summit, Scott Morrison has officially committed Australia to a net-zero emissions target by 2050. It comes after a whole load of back and forth from the Coalition government. And while it’s good news in principle, it falls short of the stronger 2030 commitments made by other countries. 

It’s about more than lowering emissions

Reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases is step one. COP26 will hopefully see countries plan further on how to adapt to a greener future to maintain lower emissions. 

They’re expected to revisit the financial commitments made in the Paris Agreement. Namely the USD $100 billion per year global commitment to fighting climate change. Some countries have committed much less than others and right now, Australia is sitting at the minimal end of the scale. For Australia, COP26 could be a chance to catch up to the rest of the world’s commitment to the climate crisis. As mentioned, the 2050 target set by Australia still falls short. 

Pressure on big banks and businesses (because our lives literally depend on it)

The summit is also an opportunity to hold big business to account. To successfully tackle climate change, every single financial firm, bank, insurer, and investor need to change how they do business for the better. As the COP26 goals outline, every single business decision (by every single business) needs to consider the impacts on climate. 

And discuss alternative energy 

Picture the scene: world leaders gather in a room to discuss the endless positives of moving to renewable energy. They cheers over plans for increased solar power and rejoice at greater endorsement for electric vehicles. There are endless positives and impactful measures to discuss, and we can spur on these conversations by tweeting and/or emailing our local MPs. Holding our local governments to account is one way to use your voting power to make change. 

How do we know if COP26 is a success 

For Australia in particular, we hope to see stronger commitments to net-zero emissions that keep pace with the rest of the world. Crucially, though, there needs to be accountability and strategy in place to ensure any commitments made aren’t empty words. If COP26 isn’t a success, there are still ways we can keep putting the pressure on. Our CEO, Christina Hobbs, covered a whole bunch of them here

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